Re: Origin of life, design & thermodynamics

Paul Brown (
Sat, 22 Mar 1997 10:45:39 PST8PDT

> Pim: Please explain.
Reasonable request. I thought you would never ask.

> especially in the light that at present the advances in
> chemistry in this area have shown little problems in the steps so
> far.
Oh? Rats! Pretty simple, huh?

>Why would thermodynamics be a problem for abiogenesis I ask you ?
I thought you just asked this above. By the way, I had summarized the
problem when I said: >> Paul: If I can use a literary allusion,
chemical reactions are not all equal. Some are
more equal than others. The main point of chemical thermodynamics is
to predict whether a reaction will have a tendency to proceed in a
certain direction or not. The problem arises, of course, when
reactions don't have a tendency to proceed in the direction one
wishes them to. Such is the case concerning the origin of life.
There are too many unfavorable reactions to ignore.

> Well, let's see, simple chemicals -> aminoacids, amino acids ->
> polymers, ATP, glucose and many more reactions have been shown to be
> feasible under conditions that might have existed on the primordial
> earth. Furthermore Fox's protocells might show the next step.
Perhaps you could demonstrate simultaneous production of these
molecules in a one pot "organic soup" synthesis? Some molecules, like
amino acids are fairly easy to explain in certain scenarios. Others
are more difficult. Each successive step in coming up with all the
necessary molecules becomes increasingly difficult to explain under
natural conditions. Amino acids are light years from life. But, I'm
willing to listen.

> There are perfect examples of self reproducing systems that work.
Ok, fine.

>Are you saying that the birth and growth of such systems requires a
>violation of the second law of thermodynamics ?
I don't know. You have not described such systems.

>Or just the original formation of the first 'life' ?
This is closer.

> Fox's protocells reproduce, grow, respond to impulses. RNA is a
> chemical which shows self-reproducing, coded, information and it is
> just chemistry.
The second statement is self-contradictory. By definition a code is
not just chemistry.

> Paul: suspect (on at least a couple of grounds) that what you are
> thinking of as a thermodynamic explanation may not significantly
> apply to biological systems.
>Pim: I would be interesting in what
> these grounds are, since thermodynamcs appears to be no problem for
> living systems.
There are reasons why thermodynamics, at least in principle, pose no
problem for already living systems. The origin of these systems is a
different matter and, at this point at least, that is where I must
disagree with you.

> If you believe that living systems are somehow different I would be
> interested in an explanation of how and how the 2nd law of
> thermodynamics forms a problem.
Puh-lease. You keep repeating yourself.

I do wish to discuss this issue more, and I will try to begin a more
systematic defense of my proposition in a following post. If I could
suggest Pim, please, do use a little less "put down" tone in your
posts. I don't know if I speak for any others, but at least for
myself as a Christian, this tone will tend to push me in one of two
directions. Either: a) not responding to you at all; as to someone
who is not really interested in finding out how things really are but
just wants to stir up trouble, or b) no ill will intended, but
responding in kind as is fitting for the message. See Proverbs.

Regards, Paul

Paul D. Brown
Dept of PSES, Ag Sci 242
University of Idaho
Moscow, ID 83844
Phone: 1 (208) 885-7427 or 885-7505